UMC loses funding after Senate Filibuster
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UMC loses funding after Senate Filibuster

Date: April 19, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SS HCS HB 16 & SS SB 389

JEFFERSON CITY -  Republicans removed $31 million for building projects on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus Wednesday and admitted they were punishing  Columbia's Senator. Republicans said they removed the projects from the bill due to the Senator's involvement with a filibuster.

At issue is $31 million related to the UMC Campus that Republican leaders admit they took out of the MOHELA appropriation's budget following a nine-hour filibuster led by  Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia.

Although the bill must still go through the House of Representatives,  Republicans are claiming there is no way to add the UMC buildings back to the project list.  The bill may not have any real impact on projects for Columbia's future for two reasons:

Senate Republicans said the constitution prohibits them from adding projects to the MOHELA appropriations bill, which the governor did not recommend. But, if the governor chooses to do so, he can add a governor's amendment and have the buildings added back to the list.

Graham blames the governor for the loss to his district which include the Health and Life Sciences Center, removed in March and the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center which was removed from the  list Wednesday.

"The governor has no one to blame but himself, he controls the list," he said.

Graham said the governor has the ability to add the projects back to the list and said "Matt Blunt has never been supportive of the Columbia campus."

The governor's spokesman confirmed Graham's interpretation of the Senate's ability and said the legislature cannot add to the governor's list but can take away from it.

Governor's office spokesperson Jessica Robinson said the project withdrawals were done by the Senate.

The projects could be added to another appropriations bill such as House Bill 19 which has not passed through the House or gone to the Senate.

Columbia's exclusion may be more of a political show than substantial public policy because the appropriations authorized by the bill will "expire on June 30, 2007." The MOHELA bill, if approved, will not go into effect until weeks after the appropriation expires.

Unless Republicans can get a constitutional majority vote from the legislature during this session, two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate,  the plans detailed in the current MOHELA appropriations bill will have to be appropriated again. At that time the Columbia project could potentially be added to the bill.

Senate Republican leaders said the exclusion of many UMC building projects came after Graham chose to conduct a second filibuster on the proposed MOHELA bill. The list of schools benefiting from the loan authority's sale is in a separate appropriations bill that was considered and passed immediately after the MOHELA bill was approved.

"Sen. Graham knows very well that if a Senator from a certain district did not support the bill they would not receive funding,"  Robinson said.

When the project was first introduced by Gov. Matt Blunt in 2005, UMC was slated to receive $175 million to create a Health and Life Sciences Center and a business incubator, the largest amount of funds from the sale.  Following objections to stem-cell research in the new buildings by Missouri Right for Life, UMC lost the Health Science Center

After Graham's participation in a filibuster on the issue in March, the project list was amended to only include $31 million for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and $24 million for plant sciences centers for UMC's auxiliary programs.

Following Wednesday's filibuster, the Senate passed the appropriations bill which excluded the Cancer Center, leaving no building projects on the Columbia campus from the proposed MOHELA sale.

Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, said the excluding the cancer center had been discussed for some time but the ultimate decision was based on what Democrats did on the MOHELA bill.

"The UMC projects in Columbia are out but UMC is still getting a large amount of funding," the bill's sponsor Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said referring to the projects outside the Columbia campus that will be run by UMC.

University of Missouri-Kansas City lost it's MOHELA building funding as well because of the Kansas City Senator's involvement in the filibuster.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said her constituents were against the bill and Republicans have threatened UMKC's funding since January while urging Justus to vote for the loan sale.

After being unable to negotiate with the Republican caucus in the last few days, Justus said she decided to join the discussion Wednesday night.

"I'm extraordinarily disappointed the bill passed, I'm disappointed that they decided to be petty and blame Senators for doing their job," Justus said. "And I'm disappointed that they decided to punish our constituents for our actions."

Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-Buchanan, said the decision to change the buildings list came after it became clear the Democrats were filibustering.

"We looked at it as [Graham and Justus's] view is there should be no MOHELA, which means there should be no funding for their districts," Shields said."In essence, the two Senators who filibustered got what they wanted."

Nodler said the funds removed from the Columbia and Kansas City campuses were not committed to other projects, and both schools have the option to request funding in the future.